As you may remember, Horizon Forbidden West was the first game I’ve ever personally given a 100/100. It hit every note for me, a true perfect sequel. I’ve been patiently awaiting the announced DLC, Burning Shores, which came in without much fanfare. That also meant we had less to go on, meaning surprises in store for yours truly. Can Burning Shores measure up to the game it’s attached to? Let’s answer that question.
Everything begins with a call from Sylens, assuming you’ve finished the game (which is a requirement to start Burning Shores, also RIP Lance Reddick). You then go to Tilda’s place, and after an expository conversation with Sylens head on over to Los Angeles, otherwise known as the Burning Shores. There isn’t a lot of action in the first hour or so, with a lot of talking that sets up the events that will unfold. While it gave me some time to get my bearings in learning how to play again, I am not the biggest fan of not starting with a bang outside of the opening cutscene.
At the start you meet Seyka, a Quen who needs help finding some of the tribe who went on a scouting mission and disappeared. Among them is her sister, so it’s personal for her. She’s an interesting character, but as my time with her continued on I found her almost too similar to Aloy. She’s driven, she’s headstrong, and she has trouble making friends. Sound like anyone you remember? Beyond this, the back and forth between the two seems a bit rushed; the timing didn’t feel correct in the emotions behind certain interactions.
The real reason behind your “forced” collaboration is this; Walter Londra is the last remaining Ancestor from the group that came from the stars. He apparently struck out on his own, because he wasn’t among all of the others you defeated at the end of the game. Because he knows his associates are dead, he adopts another method; go to his former company Heaven𝇍(Heavensent) in LA and use whatever he can to get off of Earth. After all, a bigger threat is coming and he doesn’t want to be around for that potential bloodbath.
Burning Shores narrative ends up feeling like a good addendum to the main story, but it doesn’t achieve much more than that. I enjoy what it does; it’s meaty, but nothing it does is much different than what’s come before. Where Forbidden West felt like an improvement on every system, Burning Shores is a continuation of that. Again, Forbidden West is a 100/100, so it’s tough for anything to measure up to it. But, this feels more like a good appetizer before the meal; it’s satisfying, but you’re ready for the main course.
That being said, the gameplay is yet again top notch from Guerrilla. Where not much has changed here, this is more of a case of, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. There are some additions, like a really cool weapon that I won’t talk about here (don’t worry, it’s story based so you have to grab it), but largely this is the Horizon you know and love. The Waterwing you eventually get is super cool, a variant of the Sunwing you were able to fly in Forbidden West but that can also swim. Little things like this are awesome extras, and the little tweaks work for Burning Shores. There’s also a level cap increase to sixty with some neat additional skills, so if you wanted to make Aloy even more of a cheat code, here’s your chance.
The big robots you encounter are also really cool in design. There’s now what’s called a Bilegut, which is essentially a huge frog hopping around and spitting acid at you. It’s a real challenge too, I went in underleveled and got popped on more than one occasion. A cool extra is that it lays eggs, which spawn into little fly-like robots that function like Watchers. If that wasn’t enough, you do get to fight a Horus, one of the huge “Metal Devils” that are mountainous, rusty machines around the map. I won’t divulge any of the info, but it’s clear at least from the first and second stage of the fight why it needs to be on PS5. I’m a big fan of over the top boss fights, and this one is incredible.
Of course, the power of the PS5 leads to Burning Shores being an absolute showcase for what to continue to expect as the generation goes on. Horizon Forbidden West is gorgeous, and Burning Shores keeps it going, but with a focus on a beach and forest biome. This brings out the color of Horizon tenfold, and it’s not just that. Everything is so wonderfully detailed, the overgrown buildings, hills, and highways, the blue rolling waves, the sandy shores, and red lava. Burning Shores is a work of art, benefiting from Forbidden West’s investment. The character models are also immaculate, with so much attention to detail in design and animation. Talking with NPCs feels like something pulled from a CGI cutscene; it’s just amazing we’ve made it to this point in video games. The frame rate is also ridiculously steady, so at 60fps I’m even more surprised at how good the game looks.
There’s a lot to explore here too, and it’s all still a part of the main map, similar to how Frozen Wilds did it. Los Angeles has become a bunch of islands, with different creatures and rewards inhabiting each. Burning Shores doesn’t have a ton of side quests, but my favorite has been “The Splinter Within”, which takes you outside of the normal mission areas and into some of those islands. It feeds your hunger for exploration, and gives you more of a reason to venture further. There are also other, open-world tropey things to find, so you won’t be done after the credits roll, but it’ll take your need for a platinum trophy to start the hunt.
It doesn’t come without its quirks though. I did have several weird glitches as I meandered the Burning Shores. The opening cutscene randomly became a flipbook for a few seconds, as well as in other areas as I ran through them. The loading times can also be long in tooth compared to what we’re used to after SSDs, mainly in loading a new area from the main menu or from a fast travel (reloading after dying was fast). I also had the background soundtrack stop playing several times before picking back up later. Then, upon returning to Aloy’s home base of Forbidden West to complete the epilogue, I had a glitch reappear, with my game screen going black for a split second after I glided down from the outer door of the base to a campfire to save. I hadn’t seen that one since before the day one patch, so it was a bit strange.
Horizon Forbidden West: Burning Shores
Burning Shores is more Horizon Forbidden West, which is enough to tell you to grab it. Although the narrative isn’t as gripping and the new characters aren’t as compelling, being able to explore more of the West and fight new giant robot dinosaurs makes this a fun jaunt in Los Angeles as we await Horizon 3.
- Enjoyable narrative
- Spectacular boss fight
- Graphically beautiful with amazing performance modes
- The Burning Shores locale (Los Angeles)
- Some emotional tones don’t make sense
- Several odd bugs